With Halloween just days away, try this activity: think about what really frightens you, what scares the bejeebers out of you. Try to look into the darkest, deepest corners of your mind. Go ahead, make a list – I’ll wait. What did you come up with? Death, cancer, terrorism, Alzheimer’s, or (gasp) public speaking.
Having your list on paper, or at least in mind, now try this: Ask yourself, “Is Going Vegan Scary?” What were (or are, if you’re new) the most spine-chilling aspects about adopting a vegan, whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet? Just free-associate for a few minutes until you run out of gas. What topped the list for you? I put this same question to my wife, Caroline, and also to some best friends who recently began the plant-based journey. Their responses fell into a handful of categories:
Eating at Home
- What can I eat now? Can I do this?
- Where can I buy the groceries I need? And once inside the store, where do I find the items I want – like, where do I find tahini? (It’s weird and scary how much WFPB food seems to reside in uncharted territory within the supermarkets).
- How do I cook without milk, or eggs, or cheese, or oil, or <insert your favorite pre-plant-based ingredient here>?
- What do I pour on my cereal for breakfast?
- What can I have for snacks? What are my “go-to” foods when the going gets tough, and I’m between meals?
- What can I do with my favorite, traditional family recipes?
- Where can I go to get a plant-based meal? (Check out these options for Chinese, Mexican, and Mediterranean restaurants).
- What should I order once I get there?
- What should I do when invited to a family dinner, dinner at a friend’s home, dinner with my boss, or the like?
- What about travel?
- What will the family think (especially Dad, Mom, my spouse, my kids, my uncle Joe, or some other tough customer)?
- How can I tell them?
- How do I manage Thanksgiving? Christmas? Any holiday?
- What will my colleagues think? Will this choice affect my career development?
- How can I tell my colleagues? Who should I tell first? Should I tell anyone?
- How will I handle “working lunches” when food is brought in? Or birthday cakes? Or the daily box of donuts sitting in the lunch room?
Woooo, that’s some scary stuff! Now, stop and compare your two lists. Does your going vegan scary list pale in comparison to your “really frightening” list? Is it even close? Here’s my take: the going vegan scary items are day-to-day concerns that you have to deal with, usually right here and right now. For instance, you have to eat, and you want to find the tahini in some murky backwater section of the grocery store. These day-to-day apprehensions generally arise from lack of information, lack of a strategy, or simply lack of experience. They can be overcome with knowledge, with advice from friends/mentors/advisers, and with time – just living life and experiencing some trial and error.
Maybe we like scary movies to scare us – to blow the fear out – so we can see our minor, day-to-day anxieties as the toothless phantasms that they usually are. It’s okay to be scared once in a while. It means you’re alive. You’ll survive. Now, when the little monsters show up at your door and scream, “trick or treat”, give a little shiver, hand out a tasty vegan treat, and laugh and smile. Your fears don’t stand a chance.